Nick Larson, CRO at Willow talks about revenue and growth

From our interview with Nick Larson, Former Chief Revenue Officer and Co-founder at Willow, we discuss small businesses, scaling, and more.


Receive exclusive and expertly-crafted guides on client advisory, conveniently delivered straight to your inbox.




From our interview, full interview here, with Nick Larson, Former Chief Revenue Officer and Co-founder at Willow, Advisor at Alphataba, and Startup Mentor at imec.istart. We discuss Willow, the social media tool for small businesses, scaling, the importance of setting goals, and more. 

Starting the Company Willow

Serge: Tell us about Willow, and your role. And when you started the company?

Nick: Willow is three years old at the time of this interview. It essentially empowers small businesses with social media. So if you think of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, these are essentially your fishing lines to catch new customers, as long as you have good bait. So getting the right message to the right people at the right time can be effective. So think about social credibility if you have a lot of followers and engagement. And so it can be a pretty powerful tool for small businesses. Using artificial intelligence, plus human intelligence, we've created this platform, Willow

Serge: How do you help your customers focus on pulling in the customers? 

Nick: The best content strategy is one is that's where you keep people laughing, and keep people learning. So education is a great way to attract and build a solid foundation.

Building Teams

Serge: Nick, as CRO, you're tasked with generating revenue for the company? How do you put teams together to align with that goal?

Nick:  there are specific things that we need for projecting what you're going to make into the future and optimizing each of those channels. Having a data-driven approach is a really good idea. So revenue and marketing really go hand in hand as well, right? So trying a lot of different things, and then measuring if if you're successful with those specific channels, I think that's a good idea. 

I think it's a good idea to think of it as a funnel. Where are your top-line leads? Where are you getting them? Where does your ideal target market hang out? And then how are you moving them down through that funnel? Through conversation to close to onboarding? And then again, just taking a super data-driven approach to each of those specific channels and doubling down on what's working? 

Growth Model

Serge: No, that's that. I mean, that's wonderful. So, you know, do you have different team members, tackling certain parts of that process that you mentioned? Or, is it one person managing all this process? I mean, tell us about how that works!

Nick: Yeah, great, great question. So, there's a book called Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross, it came out almost 10 years ago. Aaron Ross helped bring Salesforce to a $100 million run rate. One of the main points that I took away from this book, even though it's kind of older, but still, I think, fantastic for creating that model of growth is not by having folks that do different parts of the process. Opening the conversation and closing the conversation, ideally, would be done by two different individuals. It goes back to the psychological understanding of what's called code-switching, and just being really consistent with your tasks. Of course, your contract value has to be high enough to warrant that. The team is important and delineating the responsibilities is obviously crucial, too.

Delegation Timing

Serge: at what point should they consider having multiple people filling each part of those roles? 

Nick: When should people be filling those roles? What you want to do is make sure to not grow the team too quickly. I think the number of individuals that you have on a team, you should always be catching up on the work that you have. Because then your team can scale appropriately, as opposed to hiring too quickly. And then not enough revenue to cover that.

I think perhaps a better question here will be, at what point do you start bringing in these different people to fill these different roles?

People Process and Technology

Serge: what tools? Do you have your, at your disposal, that enables you, or facilitates your role as the CRO? In bringing in revenue for the company?

Nick: Every company has people process and technology, so one of the most important pieces is having technology that can automate processes and track important metrics. For example, your conversion rate, if you're not tracking your conversion rate, and what it's costing you to acquire a customer or your CAC, then you're missing out, you don't have access to important information. That's how you can optimize. A great CRM is HubSpot. How you manage your customers and the lifecycle is crucial. Sales Navigator is awesome, I'm a big LinkedIn fan. Willows is crucial for getting your message out there on organic social. There are lots of cool technologies to help that process.

Attracting Talent

Serge: Startups, enterprises, consultants, lawyers, and accountants today, need to build an audience to find new business and attract employees. How do you help them at will?

Nick: When you meet somebody at a bar and a library or whatever, the idea is to share something valuable or be funny. see something interesting when you meet somebody for the first time getting prospects on social functions the exact same way, you have to lead with value. So if you're a real estate agent in Manhattan, the kind of content and you don't want to say, I can buy and sell your home, on your channels, nobody cares about that. However, if you can be valuable, like, here's an infographic on the real estate trends in Manhattan over the last year, here are the top five places to take your family hiking in New York, or the top, you know, here's the YouTube on three questions that first time homeowners have rented FHA loan, if you're valuable, then you'll get clicks. And you'll get engagement, what that does and how these algorithms are optimized to give visibility and authority by driving traffic to the website based on engagement. Willow automates the process to help you achieve visibility and consistency in 30-60 minutes per week. 

Being a Founder of Multiple Ventures 

Serge: Nick, you've been in the founder's shoes on multiple occasions, with one having been Evlo. Tell us about that experience.

Nick: Evlo was a super fun project, connecting people to local art and home furnishings, everything local. So if you wanted a black leather couch that’s four feet long within a mile of your home within this price range, everything that fit that criteria would aggregate. So kind of like an online-offline platform. It's a hybrid. In fact, that's kind of how Willow functions too like a hybrid between software and humans. 

When you can take two concepts and bring them together in a novel way. Evlo was loads of fun, an amazing part of my life. And we learned a lot, raised some money, and generated some revenue. The company ended up ultimately failing.

Business Goals

Serge: How do you think about goals for the business? 

Nick: First we should be consulting people that are smarter than us and working with your mentors to have them help you put your goals together. One of my core beliefs is that nobody is a self made person. Any success that we have comes from the people around us and those relationships. You want to always be giving as well. So, back to your back to your question about goals. Revenue Growth is a is a big one, your estimated yearly revenue, your customer lifetime value, and how to maximize these things, how to reduce churn. Churn is when you lose a customer, it's like death to the whole subscription MRR game. In fact, my uncle shared with me an idea of metrics of unsuccess. If we are not able to generate revenue by this time, then we'll correct the ship or we're going to stop the strategy, which is kind of like an interesting way of keeping the company headed in the right direction. 

Revenue Goal Factors

Serge: What factors contribute to the revenue goals that you set? 

Nick: You can actually reverse engineer it, based on what you've raised, or your goals around that. If you raise a round of funds, it'll last typically a year and a half. You would then call that a year and a half runway, and the expected value of the company, which is contingent on the revenue that you're generating, will be worked into that. 

Raising Capital

Serge: How do you raise the capital in order to help you create that runway?

Nick: It's easier than ever to start a company these days because technology is being democratized. You need to prove that there's some kind of product-market fit and show that you've created something that people want, a product or service or some combination, then investors will be knocking down your door. There's more money out there for investment than any time before in the history of venture capital. In fact, CrunchBase just said yesterday, that Q1 was a new record. There's a lot of money out there. I believe it's a factor of finding the right people that will help you reach your goals.

Moving into an Advisory Role

Serge: You and I were chatting prior to hopping on. You talked about your transition to advising Willow and tapping into the venture world. Tell us a little bit about that.

Nick: I grew up in Silicon Valley, I'm super fortunate and note a lot of brilliant people. And I got to meet a gentleman by the name of Bill. Bill and I met with my friend from South Africa and we created Driven.Capital. I've scaled two companies in a row from zero to at least a million ARR, or annual current revenue. One was actually 3 million ARR. So we have this experience of scaling these companies, knowing what works, what doesn't, and the network to be able to help facilitate, so it's not just capital.


Serge: Nick, something I'd like to start asking all my guests is, what's a book that you're reading right now? And which resource, could also be a book, that has been the most influential for you.

Nick: Ben Horowitz, Marc Andreessen’s partner, those guys are the venture capital gurus. He put out a book called The Hard Thing About Hard Things. And that is pretty much brilliant. It shares a bunch of neat stories, one of which, it was 2000 or 2001. So like the recession had already hit. And his team, I believe it was Cloudflare was about to lose their biggest customer. So what they ended up doing, and losing that customer would have put them out of business. What Ben and his team did is they found out another huge challenge that the buyer was having, without even telling him and then created that product specifically for him. Solve this guy's huge issue because that's what entrepreneurism is about innovation, solving problems and, and won back the deal. And then went from like the brink of losing his company to selling for hundreds of millions of dollars, like a couple of years later. So, The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. There's another book, that's fantastic, it's called Trillion Dollar Coach. It's about the coach behind Steve Jobs and Larry and Eric and Sergey from Google.

Lots of amazing people. So it's a pretty neat insight into the Silicon Valley. It's a unique place. The Bay Area is very unique place.

Serge: Absolutely. I agree with you on that, 100%.

Nick: What are you reading? What are you reading right now, Serge?

Serge: Yeah, Nick. I'm reading The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, and, interestingly, for the first time, I'm actually reading two books together, which is and the other book is Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama. I wasn't in the US when that was published. And so, I find it's useful to get a head start or actually reading that before reading his new book. So those are the two books that I am reading. So Nick, any parting words to our audience in terms of when we're thinking about growing a business, setting revenue goals, anything that you find will be a gem for someone who's just stepping into a CRO role or someone who’s starting to think about revenue goals?

Nick: It's easy, have fun, help others make money, because then you can have an impact right? And enjoy the process.

Serge: Excellent. Wow, what a great way to end. Nick, thanks so much for coming on. And I really appreciate the opportunity to chat with you. And I look forward to what's next for you at Driven Capital.

Nick: Thank you so much. It’s wonderful chatting Serge. I'm a big fan. 

Serge: Absolutely.

Similar posts

Stay ahead of the curve with the latest updates in client advisory software

Stay ahead of the game by being the first to receive updates on the latest client advisory software insights. Scale your client advisory services with the cutting-edge tools and knowledge of today's ever-evolving industry.